VC soldiers’ graves ‘safe’

Hugo Throssell.
Hugo Throssell.

Labor leader Mark McGowan this week called on the State Government to place commemorative plaques on the graves of the VC recipients and to put their burial sites on the WA Heritage Register as part of the centenary of Anzac.

Mr McGowan said the burial rights for the seven had now expired, meaning that without heritage protection their graves could be in jeopardy of being reclaimed in the future.

Second Lieutenant Hugo Throssell, of the 10th Light Horse Regiment, received his VC for exceptional bravery at Gallipoli. He died in 1933 and is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery, along with VC winners Private Martin O’Meara VC and Private James Gordon VC.

All burial plots at Karrakatta are initially issued for 25 years, with an option for renewal for a further 25 years.

If required, a further Grant of Right to retain an original headstone in a renewed area may be applied for. This would require a repurchase of the Grant of Right of Burial to assist in covering maintenance costs for the ensuing 25 year period.

Heritage Minister Albert Jacob rejected claims the Karrakatta graves of the VC recipients may come under threat, saying they were protected under an agreement between the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board (MCB) and the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG).

Military researcher Sandra Playle has already submitted an application for the seven to be placed on the State Heritage Register, but she was advised by the State Heritage Office her application would not be considered.

Mr McGowan called on Premier Colin Barnett to intervene.

‘It is disappointing that the graves of our VC heroes are not protected under our heritage laws. These men risked their lives for our country, they deserve heritage recognition,’ he said.

The MCB insisted its memorandum of understanding (MOU) with OAWG to retain official war graves included the VC recipients.

But the MCB website states: ‘under MCB regulations, memorials may be removed from graves where official commemorations have been provided for eligible veterans buried in an area that has been identified for renewal.

‘Official commemoration would then be provided elsewhere in Karrakatta or in the OAWG Garden of Remembrance adjacent to the Perth War Cemetery.’

Ms Playle said the MOU was ‘baseless’ and the OAWG had no jurisdiction over State laws, which allowed for ‘gravesites renewal’.